United States National Institutes of Health grant funding for psychedelic-assisted therapy clinical trials from 2006-2020

Background: Medicine is currently experiencing a “psychedelic renaissance”, said by many to have commenced in 2006. Since then, clinical trials have consistently demonstrated promising findings for psychedelic-assisted therapies in the treatment of various mental health conditions and addictions. While most of this work has been privately funded, governmental biomedical research funding bodies in countries such as Australia, Canada, Israel, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom have begun supporting it. Given that the United States National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the largest public funder of biomedical research in the world, it is important to understand the degree to which the organization is supporting clinical trials of psychedelic-assisted therapies. We are unaware of existing literature quantifying direct NIH grant support for psychedelic-assisted therapy clinical trials, so we sought to answer this important question by searching all NIH grants awarded since the beginning of the psychedelic renaissance.

Methods: We queried NIH RePORTER, NIH’s grant database, for grants awarded from 2006-2020 mentioning the psychedelics 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), 5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine (5-MeO-DMT), ayahuasca, dimethyltryptamine (DMT), ibogaine, lysergic acid (LSD), mescaline, peyote, and psilocybin. We manually reviewed resulting grants to determine whether they directly funded psychedelic-assisted therapy clinical trials.

Results: We identified zero NIH grants directly funding psychedelic-assisted therapy clinical trials during the study period.

Conclusion: While governmental biomedical research funding bodies in other countries have begun funding clinical trials of psychedelic-assisted therapies during the psychedelic renaissance, NIH has yet to directly fund a single psychedelic-assisted therapy clinical trial. Concerns about risks related to psychedelics, a federal law preventing promotion of legalization of Schedule 1 drugs, and prioritization of grants for other types of studies on psychedelics may explain the dearth of NIH funding for psychedelic-assisted therapy clinical trials.

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